A Vale of Belvoir woman who had two life-changing surgeries to tackle a high risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer has been nominated for a coveted book award after writing about her experiences.
Clarissa Foster decided to write the book because she couldn’t find one to tell her more about the harmful gene mutation she was carrying.
‘Understanding BRCA: Living with the breast cancer gene’ has now been shortlisted for The People’s Book Prize, a national literary competition aimed at supporting and promoting new authors.
Clarissa now supports hundreds of other women around the world who are in the same position as she was through a Facebook group and she hopes the award nomination will further raise the profile of the condition.
She told the Melton Times: “When I found out the book had been nominated for the award I was so emotional and proud at what I had achieved.”
It all began back in 2013 when Clarissa was found to be carrying a harmful BRCA gene mutation, which gave her up to an 85 per cent risk of breast cancer and up to a 30 per cent chance of developing it in her ovaries.
She had lost her mother to ovarian cancer and faced the terrible dilemma of how to manage her risk, with husband James and two young children to consider too.
At the age of 35 she elected to have a bilateral mastectomy and a salpingo-oophorectomy, which involved the removal of her ovaries and fallopian tubes, resulting in a surgically-induced menopause.
Clarissa said: “It was a scary decision to go ahead with the surgeries but what helped to ease the process was James reminding me that, in his eyes, I would be more of a woman by protecting our family and the children from the trauma of me having cancer.
“For any woman to hear those words from their husband is beautiful.”
She decided to write the book after reading through much of the medical literature and talking to health specialists to explain what it means to carry a harmful mutation, options for lowering the risk of cancer and how it feels to have risk-reducing surgery. It helped that she is a human biologist.
“When I couldn’t find a book about it, I thought of all the other women who were going through what I was going through and I felt saddened by this and the lack of resources available,” added Clarissa, who has a daughter Isabelle (11) and an eight-year-old son, Ben, with her husband.
“I set about writing a book which I would have wanted to read and which would have answered all the questions that I, personally, had.
“I’ve so far received all five-star reviews and comments from women all over the world saying how much the book has helped them, which is wonderful to hear.”
Clarissa’s book is available on Amazon and you can go online at www.peoplesbookprize.com/books/understanding-brca/ to vote for it in the awards. You can also visit her webpage at www.understandingbrca.co.uk for more information.